Title ~ Bright Star
Author ~ Talia R Blackwood
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ October 8th 2014
Genre ~ M/M Science Fiction Romance
“I am his guardian angel. I don’t know who he is. I know every line of his face—the curve of his lips is carved in my soul—but I don’t know his name. I always called him just Prince.”
Tasked to watch over a young man in suspended animation, Phae, a clone, spends his life alone on an empty spaceship, focused only on the protection of his ward. Prince isn’t scheduled to wake for another twenty years, but an attack on the ship starts the automatic awakening procedure. Prince relieves Phae’s loneliness and teaches him the meaning of love. However, the mission becomes more complicated than either man was led to believe—and far more dangerous. Their destination is a world held hostage, where clones are disposable and Phae is scheduled for “recycling” when his duty is done.
To be honest if I was writing this review with my sensible head on, I'd probably be giving 'Bright Star' around a 4 rating for its plot and execution but this surprisingly sexy, quirky Sci Fi romance really got to me emotionally and I'm talking REALLY!!! Plus I just thought it was beautifully written so that's why I couldn't give this any less than its full five stars. Personally it was another case of love at first read and it was all because of its opening narrator, the disarmingly gentle and innocent Phaedrus: a 'Guardian Angel' clone whose endearing, vulnerable voice pushed my emotional buttons from the moment the book opened with him alone and isolated on 'Bright Star', a derelict spaceship that once, long before it took on board it's present passengers, had been a hive of activity. For ninety four years its been journeying towards the planet Otherworld, with another sixty one to go before it reaches its final destination. Phae has lived onboard the dilapidated craft for the whole of his nineteen years, ten of them completely alone, and because of that my heart went out to him. The thought of a nine year old boy left to grow up alone in a situation like that was unthinkable!
His sole purpose in life is to protect the precious cargo on board 'Ship' and that cargo is a special passenger who in a way only adds to Phae's loneliness as he happens to be in a state of suspended animation; frozen in time inside a sarcophagus which Phae tends daily. His 'Prince' has been the one constant in his life, since he was developed in the ships lab by the only other person he ever had physical contact with—Blasius—the first guardian clone, whose cells he was originally grown from. It was through Blasius that a young, guileless Phae learned what it was like to be loved, even though he and his 'father' only had a few short years together.
'Blasius stroked my cheek with his raspy warm hand. "Little angel, you are an unexpected brightness in the shadows of my life. When this journey started, I knew I had to raise a clone of myself, but I didn't know I'd love him so much. A cycle will come when you'll find me lying on this cot, without moving or breathing. You mustn't cry and feel sad. Because I am you and I will live in you."
Omg! My heart broke for him. Within the first few pages of the novella I found myself constantly welling up; spilling over into tears because of the sense of despair and loneliness that Talia Blackwood projected sublimely in her writing. The thought of being the only living person in such a vast, desolate environment, with no one to interact with physically or mentally for years on end, deeply touched me but it was also because at the same time Talia was still able to show, despite how lonely he was, Phae's unconditional acceptance of his mission, quite simply because it was all he knew. For anyone worldly, the isolation would drive them to madness but his innocence of 'Outside' seems to depress that in Phae. It shows in every thought process and the feelings he has for his charge just add to the resignation that this is his life now until he expires. He's not stupid or simple minded...far from it... he's just not had enough contact and intimacy with others to expand his knowledge of the world outside the confines of Bright Star. No one to fully teach him life skills in general.The only way he learned about death was by seeing it first in 'Skeleton', a mummified body he found hidden amongst the ships machinery, and then first hand with Blasius's death who although he loved him wasn't with him long enough to fully instruct poor Phae all the things we take for granted.
What made it even more poignant was that although he'd fallen for the man he was watching over, he knew his feelings would always be unrequited because as far as he was concerned the only interaction he'd ever have with his Prince would be the daily maintenance of the stasis unit he's contained in, and that would be his only connection until the time came for Prince to be awakened, only to be given to another man as part of a treaty to unite their respective planets. The one hundred and fifty year journey, a by product of that treaty. But still he dreams and hopes....
'In my head, I repeat the little knowledge I have. I am a guardian angel. Watching over him is my task. He is my reason for living. He who lies within this sarcophagus.
I don't know his name. I have always called him Prince.
My prince, sometimes I dare to think, but he's not mine. Far from it. Maybe I'm his but I doubt this is true, too. I'm only his guardian angel. He's not aware of my existence; I don't exist for him at all, since he's sleeping.'
Then out of the blue his solitude ends, when unexpected danger encroaches, threatening their safety and forcing him to set in motion the early thawing out of Prince, otherwise known as Kian Jaymes Eldon Newell: son of the Worldwide Union Prime Minister, and we find out that everything Phae has built up in his head around his Prince isn't as cut and dried as he, or we thought. Kian himself is a troubled character with a sad, chequered past...something we learn from his own memories that slowly creep back after he endures the discomfort of being resuscitated ....not the fairytale, sleeping beauty style character he seems.
I was so happy for Phae, especially when after facing possible danger together, Kian reciprocates his feelings and they make love... it was like the two of them were meant to be together...soul mates... and I started to fill up again when after all those years of longing and loneliness, Phae finally got to be with the man he'd only ever gazed at through glass. From then on I spent the rest of the story in a constant state of heightened emotion, as just when he thinks he's found happiness, it's cruelly ripped away from him... More tears!!! Over the course of their journey, which took place over many years, they go through some heartrending trials and I couldn't get my head around how it was ever going to resolve itself in the way I desperately wanted it to.
Looking back, this isn't without its flaws. There are things I would have loved to have seen expanded and certain important sub plots did get glossed over in order to move it along, but as it's a novella I understand that does restrict content. Honestly? Under different circumstances all that would have lowered my rating, yet somehow...emotionally... I still felt like I'd read a wonderful, epic love story and I truly adored Phae and Prince and their space odyssey, which in true Sci fi style came complete with alien invasions, space politics, intrigue, mysterious artefacts, clones, and a gorgeous space opera romance that literally transcended space and time! If you take the plunge and let yourself be transported to the stars and beyond it might just get to you the way it got to me...Who knows? All I can say is I found this a lovely read, one I won't forget for a long time.
Buy it here
Meet Talia Blackwood
Talia R. Blackwood loves being able to lose herself into the worlds she creates. When she isn’t writing, she is a distracted—but talented—graphic designer. She spent part of her life in Scotland, but now her place is in Italy where she lives with two cats and two daughters. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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